Article

BUSINESS: THE CEO CHECKLIST

WHEN IT’S TIME FOR DISCIPLINE

Take a step-by-step approach to addressing disruptive behavior

Action Steps

ADDRESS PATTERNS

DISCUSS THE ISSUE

ISSUE A VERBAL WARNING

PUT IT IN WRITING

CONSIDER TERMINATION

Left ignored, disruptive behavior can negatively impact staff morale, practice productivity, patient care, customer service and your practice’s reputation. This article provides a step-by-step approach for dealing with behaviors that do not meet the culture and professional standards you have established for your practice.

ADDRESS PATTERNS

As an HR expert once told me, “This first time, I extend grace; the second time, it’s a pattern.” Assuming it’s a minor offense, give your employees permission to not be perfect. It’s fine to take a mental note the first time an employee exhibits a behavior inconsistent with the desired office culture. We all have bad days. The second time, it’s a pattern. Now, it’s time for a discussion.

DISCUSS THE ISSUE

I refrain from using the word “warning” at this stage. Just have a private discussion with the employee. Considering communication pertaining to this issue has not taken place yet, I’ll give the employee the benefit of the doubt that he or she may lack awareness of the problem. Some people are unaware their communication style comes across as abrasive or rude. Perhaps at their last job everyone showed up 10 minutes late with no consequences. Whatever the grievance, use this opportunity to clarify expectations.

Try to avoid making the discussion personal, and focus on specific behaviors and actions.

ISSUE A VERBAL WARNING

When the “discussion” fails to rectify the issue, a verbal warning may become necessary. This is a discussion with a higher level of severity. The issue is no longer about clarification, it’s about compliance. Grace gets replaced by disappointment (that the behavior has not improved). Let me be clear that I don’t think you need to chase down every employee misstep, but certain behaviors and actions can not be ignored — for example, rudeness to patients, unwillingness to help a coworker or chronic tardiness. Not addressing the problem communicates it’s not important.

PUT IT IN WRITING

When verbal warnings prove ineffective, the issue has elevated to a written warning. This should clearly state the reason for the warning, corrective action required, date to review progress and consequences for the employee if the situation does not improve. Have the employee sign the document. Setting a date to revisit the issue builds accountability into the process. When people know in advance certain behaviors are being observed and they will have to answer for their actions, they are more likely to make the necessary changes.

CONSIDER TERMINATION

I won’t use this column to offer specific guidelines like “three warnings and then you’re fired!” Terminations can be considered on an individual basis, and the offense itself may not rise to the level of termination. However, in situations in which multiple discussions and warnings do not resolve the issue, you have to make a decision. Can you live with this employee’s shortcomings, or would it be better if this employee were no longer employed by you? OM